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Penny fans 14 as Dodgers roll

Penny fans 14 as Dodgers roll

MIAMI -- Trade rumors built to a crescendo after the Winter Meetings and Brad Penny couldn't take any more of the noise.

So last December, he called Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to separate fact from fiction, was assured he wasn't being shopped around, and the relationship is thriving again.

On Monday night, Penny reminded the last team that traded him away, the Florida Marlins, what they're missing. He struck out a career-high 14, pitching seven scoreless innings in a 6-1 Dodgers win. It was the most strikeouts against the Marlins since Jason Schmidt fanned 16 as a Giant last June.

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About the only thing Penny did wrong was take the mound with his fly unzipped, an oversight caught by a cameraman and immediately turned into a framed clubhouse wall ornament, complete with a red circle highlighting what he forgot to do.

"I'll have to do that again next time," Penny said, laughing along with his teammates. "I did feel good today. My fastball was the best it's been all year. I had command of it, in and out, and they got me an early cushion, and that makes it a lot easier on a pitcher."

The Dodgers scored twice in the second inning and batted around for four runs in the fourth inning against Ricky Nolasco, Penny helping himself with a two-run single. Jeff Kent homered, doubled and scored twice. Russell Martin tripled, singled and scored twice. And third baseman Andy LaRoche drove in a pair with a single and sacrifice fly, stole a base, then left after getting hit with a pitch on the right wrist, but said he was fine.

Penny was better than that. With a fastball that touched 97 mph, he overpowered the Marlins, a reversal from the 8.18 ERA against them in two previous starts. The last Dodgers pitcher with 14 strikeouts in a game was Chan Ho Park in 2000. The last Dodgers pitcher with 15 strikeouts in a game was Fernando Valenzuela in 1984.

The Dodgers are 6-1 in Penny's starts, and he's 3-0 on the road. He was coming off six scoreless innings in his last start against Arizona, his third consecutive no-decision, and has not allowed a run in three of his seven starts this year. He's 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA; after seven starts last year, he was 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA.

As hard as Penny throws, however, he hasn't been a strikeout pitcher this year. His previous season high was four, and he sailed past that in the second inning. He had only 15 in 38 1/3 innings coming into the game, but struck out six of the first seven batters and nine of the first 11.

Penny said the mound at Dolphin Stadium contributed to his performance, and not the emotion of facing the team that dealt him, Hee-Seop Choi and Bill Murphy to the Dodgers in the controversial 2004 deadline deal for Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion.

"The mound here is huge. It's perfect for a guy like me," said Penny, who beat the Yankees twice (the second time at home) when the Marlins won the 2003 World Series. "It's definitely to the advantage of a power pitcher."

Penny also took advantage of a young Marlins lineup that comes to the plate swinging for the fences.

"I have to make sure in the next outing that I don't do that again," Penny said of the power strategy. "I have to go back to pitching. But they were swinging at strikes. There weren't chasing a lot. They probably thought their best chance was to get me early."

Manager Grady Little, who kept his cool last year when Penny lost his on the mound and in the dugout, said this was the best he's seen Penny pitch, even in the first half last year when Penny went 10-2 and was named the All-Star Game starter.

"He kept himself well under control," said Little. "He made a lot of good pitches. He just played hardball with them, but didn't play too hard. He gets out there grunting sometimes, trying to be a power pitcher. Tonight, he grunted on four or five pitches, but he stayed within himself and let his natural ability take over."

Penny was removed after seven innings, having thrown 110 pitches. Rudy Seanez pitched the last two innings and lost the shutout on a solo home run by Dan Uggla in the eighth inning.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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